Opinion: The Supreme Court's Decision Opens the Door to Prayers in School from Other Religions

Walter Rhein

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The United States has effectively relied on the separation of church and state for a reason. Until recently, substantial restrictions were in place designed to protect children from being indoctrinated by religions other than their faith.

This allowed children to engage in learning at public schools without having to endure any attacks on their faith.

A recent ruling by the Supreme Court has changed that.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sided with a high school football coach who claimed the right to pray on the 50-yard line after each game, joined by those players who wanted to participate. The 6-to-3 decision was the latest example of the court's conservative supermajority requiring more accommodation for religion in public schools and less separation between church and state— NINA TOTENBERG

What the Supreme Court doesn’t seem to understand is that this ruling allows for practitioners of faiths other than Christianity to lead students in voluntary prayer.

Prayer is not limited to Christianity. Now, teachers who are members of any legally recognized religion can use this decision to defend their right to conduct "voluntary" prayer meetings.

Obviously, students can opt out of participation. However, how much protection does opting out really offer? Even if students do not participate in the prayer, they might still hear phrases and messages they find disturbing.

For example, It’s important to understand that the Supreme Court's decision might expose your children to prayers from practicing members of the Satanic Temple. The Satanic Temple is recognized as a legitimate religion in the United States:

Being granted tax-exempt status essentially means that the Satanic Temple has the same legal protections that other religions do, including “access to public spaces as other religious organizations; affirming its standing in court when battling religious discrimination; and enabling The Satanic Temple to apply for faith-based government grants,”—EJ DICKSON

Because of the Supreme Court’s decision on the football coach who prayed on the 50-yard line, the students in your community might soon be invited to stand inside a pentagram for a few minutes of ritualistic chanting.

It’s disturbing that so few conservative members of our community understand the larger consequences of their decisions. I recently wrote an article about how my children should be free from religious indoctrination at school.

Oddly, some people claimed that my position represented an act of oppression against their religion. I don't see it that way. I believe my position defends their religion. I believe all Americans should be able to practice the religion of their choosing without being subjected to public pressure to change.

Some people claimed that if I didn't like how public schools operated, I should consider homeschooling. Does that truly seem like a reasonable alternative? Many parents lack the resources for homeschooling. Does it seem fair that the children of these parents should be subjected to Satanic prayer, or any other kind of prayer, against their will?

I believe that all students should be allowed to go to school without feeling any pressure to join a prayer that is not of their faith. I don't understand why that position is seen as controversial. The government should not be involved in our religious practices.

The idea of “voluntary” prayer meetings is problematic. Meetings conducted on school property are not done anonymously. The teacher leading the “voluntary” meeting can take note of which students choose to participate. Students must be mindful of retaliation for failure to join a prayer.

Do all Americans want classrooms throughout the country divided into religious groups? Does it not put our children in danger to have too much of our children's personal information revealed to the general public? Isn't an act of "voluntary prayer" a form of grooming?

The Satanic Temple is a legitimate religion in the United States. It’s quite easy for a member of the Satanic Temple to get a teaching job because religion is not something you have to disclose in a job interview.

Questions about an applicant's religious affiliation or beliefs (unless the religion is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ)), are generally viewed as non job-related and problematic under federal law—Pre-Employment Inquiries and Religious Affiliation or Beliefs

Because of the Supreme Court’s recent decision, members of the Satanic Temple are now allowed to conduct voluntary prayer meetings with students. Obviously, although this wasn't likely the intention of the Supreme Court's decision, it is a consequence of that decision.

This is a direct result of the push to get government-mandated prayer back in the classroom. Anyone who has an objection to Satanic prayer on public ground should reassess the importance and practicality of the separation of church and state.

Few Americans seem to understand that the purpose of the separation of church and state is to prevent your children from being indoctrinated at school through "voluntary" prayer meetings.

Perhaps we should be strengthening the separation of church and state, not eroding it.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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